Patient safety

Technical activities

Blood safety

The mission of the Blood Transfusion Safety team within WHO is to promote the formation of national blood programmes ensuring the safety, quality and adequacy of blood and blood products to meet the needs of all patients, on the understanding that patients will receive blood transfusions only when they need them. Blood and blood products are provided as part of a sustainable blood programme within the health care system.

WHO has developed the following integrated strategy for blood safety:

  • establishment of a nationally coordinated blood transfusion service that can ensure adequate and timely availability of safe blood for all patients in need;
  • collection of blood from voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors from low-risk populations;
  • testing of all donated blood for transfusion-transmissible infections, blood grouping and compatibility testing;
  • appropriate clinical use of blood and blood products.

The strategy addresses all the steps in collecting, testing, processing, storage and use of blood and blood products that could directly or indirectly influence the safety of patients. It can be effective only if quality systems cover all aspects of transfusion, from recruitment and selection of blood donors to transfusion of blood and blood products.

Supporting the elaboration of national policy and guidelines, and monitoring and evaluation to assess the patterns of blood usage and their impact on transfusion practice are all part of approaches towards ensuring appropriate clinical use of blood and blood products. One of the tools that should be in place is a system for collecting and collating data on the hazards linked to the transfusion of blood and blood components, a process broadly termed haemovigilance. Activities carried out in this regard include the collection of information such as the prevalence of infection in blood donors and the occurrence among recipients of adverse events (including errors) associated with the transfusion of labile blood components. These data will help improve patient safety in relation to blood transfusion.

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